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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

25 March 2010


Remarks to "State of the Planet 2010: Connecting voices globally to meet the challenges of climate change, poverty and economic recovery"

Thank you, Professor Sachs.

Thank you also to Hans Vestberg from Ericsson and Matthew Bishop from The Economist who are co-hosting this event.

I would like to greet the guests here at Columbia University and the thousand more around the world who are participating by webcast.

It is a pleasure to join you for these important discussions.

Earlier, you focused on climate change and the green economy.

I thank President Calderón of Mexico for his remarks. I am working closely with him as Mexico prepares to host the next UN climate change conference.

Green growth is the path to meeting the climate challenge.

It can help us to lay the foundation for lasting and widespread economic recovery.

It can help us to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

These connected objectives are what I would like to speak about today.

One of the features of my job as Secretary-General is that it gives you a view of the big picture.

Of all the things I have seen, two are crystal clear: we live in a rapidly changing world … and we live in an ever more interconnected world.

The multiple crises of the past two years made this apparent to all.

The response by world leaders to the financial crisis showed a growing awareness that in today’s world we sink or swim together.

I saw the same awareness among leaders in their response to my call for engagement and commitment on climate change.

The gathering of Heads of State and Government in Copenhagen was unprecedented.

Yes, the Copenhagen climate conference received mixed reviews. Yes, we still have a way to go to reach the comprehensive, ambitious climate change agreement that we all know we need.

Nonetheless, Copenhagen marked a significant step forward in a number of areas: a goal of limiting global temperature rise to within 2° C; mitigation actions by all countries; progress on addressing deforestation and forest degradation; funding for developing countries for adaptation and mitigation.

To keep the momentum, and to help countries to deliver on the Copenhagen commitments, I have launched a High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing.

Adaptation to climate change and low-carbon growth are central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Earlier this month I presented my report for September’s high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.

It is called “Keeping the Promise”.

Let me be clear: the MDGs are a pledge. They are a commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people.

Achieving the MDGs is a practical necessity. It is a moral imperative. And it is possible.

Let me stress this. We can do this.

Preparations for the Summit are gathering pace.

My report shows the way forward.

It reviews successes, best practices and lessons learned.

It identifies obstacles, gaps and opportunities.

It suggests ways to accelerate progress.

The goal for the Summit is an agenda for action from now until 2015.

A specific, practical and results-oriented agenda, with concrete steps and timelines.

As I said, the MDGs can be achieved … so long as we deliver on two essential elements for success.

First, finances.

We do not need new promises. Current commitments are already sufficient for success.

We have only to deliver on them. We have only to honour our pledges.

Yes, times are tough.

The global economic crisis, coming on top of high food and fuel price spikes, has hit developing countries hard.

Growth has slowed, millions of people have lost jobs, remittances have fallen, public revenues have shrunk.

On top of this are the challenges of disasters.

Many are climate-related. Others – like the recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and Turkey – are not.

They hit the most vulnerable the hardest and set back progress towards the MDGs.

Haiti is perhaps the most stark example.

Last year many of us were confident that we were achieving real progress. Then came the earthquake.

Next week I will co-host a donor conference on Haiti with [United States] Secretary of State Clinton.

We will ask for pledges, for support to get Haiti back on track to help its Government and people to build back better.

What we will say about Haiti applies across the MDG spectrum.

But there is one difference. In the case of the MDGs, we do not need more promises.

As I say, we simply need to deliver on those we have already made.

There are far too many partially funded or un-funded financial commitments.

Next to the more than $3 trillion mobilized for stimulus in response to the financial crisis, the amounts needed for the MDGs are modest indeed.

The Gleneagles commitments imply about $160 billion a year.

The 0.7 per cent official development assistance target implies about $350 billion a year.

ODA is currently around $120 billion a year. The difference between current ODA levels and the Gleneagles commitments is about the same as a year’s worth of Wall Street bonuses.

We should also conclude the current round of trade talks.

This, too, was a commitment to the world’s poor and vulnerable.

It has taken far too long.

It could generate vast resources for development. Governments just need to say no to protectionism, subsidies and other unfair practices.

In short, we have the wealth to achieve the MDGs. We just need more political will.

Once we have the resources, we know what to do with them.

This is my second point, my second essential element for success.

We know what works. We must invest in it replicating successes and scaling them up.

We can find successes in all countries, even the world’s poorest countries.

Between 1999 and 2004, sub-Saharan Africa has achieved one of the largest-ever reductions in deaths from measles.

The region also showed the fastest growth in primary school enrolment.

Malawi has doubled agricultural production.

The Millennium Villages are showcasing the great impact of smart, targeted interventions.

We are seeing how to make the most of new technologies. We are beginning to reap the benefits of new national development policies.

We have seen that when you empower women, with an integrated strategy for health care, education, agriculture and small business, you can change the world.

The message is clear: with the right policies, adequate investment and international support, enormous challenges can be overcome.

But let us not be under any illusions. The challenges are immense.

Progress on reducing extreme poverty and hunger is uneven at best.

China has seen dramatic successes, but elsewhere it is a different story. The numbers of the poor and hungry have risen.

The food and fuel crises highlighted the dysfunction of global agriculture and a chronic lack of secure energy supplies.

Climate change is further compounding the risk.

There are other areas for serious concern.

The area where there has been least progress is in maternal mortality.

Indeed, across the board, there is insufficient progress on gender equality.

We are failing to adequately meet the needs and the rights of women and girls.

This is not simply a gross injustice. It is a lost opportunity. A massive waste.

The world’s women are the key to sustainable development, peace and security.

They are the thread that binds the MDGs.

Wherever we see lack of progress in reaching any of the MDGs we see a failure to meet the needs of women and girls.

We will not reduce poverty, alleviate hunger, achieve environmental sustainability, or slow the spread of HIV-AIDS, until we empower women and girls.

There are so many examples around the world of how the UN and our partners – such as the Earth Institute – can achieve the MDGs.

As we look forward to this year’s MDG Summit in September, let us collect and spread these stories.

We can empower women, reduce poverty and meet the MDGs.

The September Summit must reinvigorate our commitment, our sense of moral solidarity.

If we fall short, all the dangers of our world will grow.

The MDGs have sparked a remarkable, global mobilization. Rarely have so many organizations – from the global to the grass roots – agreed on a common agenda for change.

Rarely have so many individuals – citizens and CEOs, philanthropists and political leaders – found such common ground in common cause.

Let us realize the great potential of this global coalition, this great global movement.

The MDGs are not numbers for policymakers. They are real goals for real people.

Let us keep our promises. Let us turn the Millennium Goals into a world of opportunity for all.

Thank you.